Aggressive driving an increasingly common factor in Pennsylvania crashes

New data shows that aggressive driving habits, such as tailgating and speeding, now cause more accidents in Pennsylvania than drunk and distracted driving.

Driver impairment and distraction are widely recognized as common car accident causes. However, according to recent data, another reckless driving habit may pose an even greater danger to people in Pittsburgh. According to The Patriot-News, aggressive driving has now outstripped inattentive and impaired driving as a cause of accidents in Pennsylvania. Troublingly, the combined annual number of distracted and drunk driving crashes now falls below the number of aggressive driving crashes.

Aggressive driving defined

Aggressive driving is generally described as the operation of a vehicle in a hostile manner that disregards the safety of others. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation codes accidents as aggressive driving crashes if they involve at least two of 20 dangerous driver behaviors. These include tailgating, speeding, cutting off other motorists, racing, ignoring traffic signals, eluding authorities and otherwise driving recklessly.

Alarming accident rates

Accidents that involve these behaviors now account for a significant proportion of all Pennsylvania crashes. The Patriot-News states that about 64,000 accidents that occurred in the state between 2009 and 2014 involved aggressive driving. In several counties, almost two-thirds of all crashes can be at least partially attributed to aggressive drivers.

PDOT data from 2014 underscores the dangers of aggressive driving. That year, the rates of accidents involving aggressive drivers were as follows:

  • Speeding contributed to 32,069 accidents, including 434 fatal ones.
  • Failure to yield the right of way was a factor in 7,681 crashes, 68 of which resulted in fatalities.
  • Tailgating played a role in 5,456 accidents, including nine that caused fatal injuries.
  • Illegal or reckless passing contributed to 4,126 crashes, and lives were lost in 61 of those accidents.

Together, these four factors caused 49,332 accidents, which accounted for more than 40 percent of the 121,317 crashes reported in the state that year. With the other aggressive driving behaviors identified above taken into account, even more accidents likely involved this form of negligence.

Holding drivers accountable

People who suffer injuries during serious or catastrophic car accidents involving aggressive driving may have legal remedies available. If another driver causes an accident by acting negligently, and if the driver's actions were a primary factor in the accident, the driver might be considered liable. If so, injury victims may be able to recover various damages for both direct financial expenses and other losses.

To make a successful claim, victims must show that the at-fault driver acted in a manner that could reasonably have been expected to lead to injury. Aggressive driving habits that violate local statutes, such as speeding and failure to yield, may automatically be considered negligence. Behaviors that don't directly violate the law but clearly endanger other motorists may also be considered acts of negligence.

Unfortunately, even in cases that involve aggressive driving, establishing liability after an accident can be challenging. For advice and other assistance during the claim process, injury victims may want to consider consulting with a car accident attorney.